For our monthly series “Meet The Kitchen Family,” we sat down with L.R. Laggy of The Kitchen Boulder to get to know him a bit better. Here’s what he had to say:
Can you pinpoint a particular moment in time, when you realized that you were seriously into food?
I’m not sure if there was an exact moment, but there definitely was a phase where I was all in. My earliest memory of being into food was during college. I was going to Boston College to get my bachelor’s in arts, and somewhere along the way I thought I wanted to be a chef. I worked in kitchens every so often, but it never really stuck.
What was your next move after B.C.?
I ended up moving to New Orleans for a year. My roommate had a fully stocked kitchen, so I started cooking. That’s where it really started, mostly as an enthusiast, throwing dinner parties for friends. All I was doing was reading cookbooks and food magazines. It still amazes me when I set out to cook something, even if I’ve cooked it over a hundred times before. Like red beans and rice; it still amazes me when it comes out the way it does. There’s this alchemy that happens somewhere along the way, that hit me in the beginning, that still surprises me.
So, why didn’t you become a chef?
I didn’t have the dedication to stay in a kitchen, so I ended up in film production for eight or nine years. I went to dinner at Aquavit in New York, I was twenty-seven maybe, and I’d never really thought about the front of the house. The way our server was guiding us through the menu, creating this experience; she brought an extra dessert for me and my date, she never said why. I think just because we were so into it, who knows. I remember thinking, “I can do what this woman is doing.” That was my aha moment for wanting to get into hospitality.
Your first restaurant jobs happened in New York, correct?
There was a little Key West interlude. I got hooked on sailing, so I moved down there. That’s where I got into restaurants, actually. A chef down there asked me if I wanted to work at his restaurant, I started as a twenty-mine year old food runner at Antonio’s. It was a pretty amazing place. The servers had all been there fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years. The owners lived in DC, and there were no managers, the servers just ran the restaurant. The Kitchen is the first place I’ve been that’s reminded me of Antonio’s. We definitely have managers here, and they have their roles for sure, but I feel like they could step off the floor and their servers would do the right thing.
You’ve been serving at The Kitchen Boulder for some time.
Three years. Six months in, I became a Captain.
What does a Captain do?
Seems to me, that we’re the people on the floor who first and foremost lead by example. We serve as liaisons between staff and management. Other staff can ask us questions if a manager isn’t around, or if they feel more comfortable asking us.
From the kitchen to the dining room floor, and now back in the kitchen again doing pop-ups?
My roommate had lent me her car, to go to Crested Butte for a ten day retreat. I got home and she said, “You should put on a restaurant in our back yard.” I immediately contracted, and thought that there was no way I could do it. That was my first thought. Then I thought, because I’m feeling this way, I need to do it. To me, it was a sign that I was facing something that I needed to take on. It was awesome, and one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done. It’s really easy to cook the same things for breakfast, the same things for lunch, and the same things for dinner. That’s where the pop-ups have been awesome for me, because I’m forced to explore new things. It’s been awesome to come up with a menu, and fool around in the kitchen, and see how that stuff works. People really seemed to like it.
You give an impression of being quite content.
The Kitchen is an amazing organization, being here has taught me so much. I am grateful to be a part of an organization that’s genuinely friendly. I barely know Hugo and Kimbal, but I know they’re genuinely friendly, because I know that all of the people I work with are genuinely friendly. I remember my training interview on the floor here with Dan Smalheiser; I really felt how special of a restaurant it is. Before that, I was interested in working at other restaurants in town, and after that there was no where else I wanted to be.
Interview and Photo of L.R. by Veronika Sprinkel Ink 2015.